Climate Change in the Collections

80 objects, modified

by DAPP Tours

This selection of objects from the Harvard Art Museums collections was assembled by Ho Family Student Guides Sophia Clark ’22, Sinead Danagher ’22, and Adam Sella ’22. It offers a range of perspectives and lenses with which to reflect upon the causes and consequences of climate change. It includes explorations of environmental sciences, the human influence on the earth, and the changing climate’s impact on earth’s inhabitants. The selection begins with contemporary photography that depicts humans coping with climate change, most often a result of human actions, and disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable among us. We then engage with the image of the gas station, a symbol of the automobile age and its damaging emissions. Alongside gas stations, we explore coal, which fueled the Industrial Revolution and remains an important source of energy and livelihoods but with devastating effects on the planet. Also included are representations of deities associated with coal as well as other supernatural and deified figures that have the power to control nature. Works addressing ways in which humans have tried to control nature lead to objects that focus on extinction (animals, plants, and even the materials used to produce certain pigments) and emigration, a reality of the future as entire countries are expected to become uninhabitable. Finally, we engage with examples of climate activism, created by artists seeking to raise awareness and effect change through their work.

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